PETALING JAYA – Ananda Krishnan’s private vehicle Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd is believed to be mulling over the fate of its regional investment arm, Astro Overseas Ltd (AOL), following the departure of Augustus Ralph Marshall, the Malaysian tycoon’s long-time lieutenant.

Checks with the Companies Commission Malaysia show that Marshall is no longer listed as a director of Usaha Tegas, which has assets worth RM25 billion, where he was once executive director. He is, however, still listed as a director of AOL, of which he has been deputy chairman since April 2011.

Another of AOL’s key executives CFO Sean Dent, left the company in June 2016.
It is understood that Usaha Tegas, which has pumped billions into AOL to date, is even considering liquidating the company which has continued to make investments despite years of losses.

Efforts to get Usaha Tegas’ comments were not entertained.

AOL registered a net loss of RM100.55 million for the financial year ended Jan 1, 2015, compared with a net loss of RM494.18 million for the financial year ended Jan 1, 2014. Its reserves stand at zero, with non-current and current assets standing at RM809.6 million and RM328.9 million, respectively.

It is understood that AOL’s accounts for the financial year ended Jan 1, 2016 have not been signed off pending a decision by the board of Usaha Tegas on the fate of the company.

AOL was incorporated on Aug 18, 2000. Its presence in the media and entertainment scene spreads across five segments – platform and distribution, content, IP & production, e-commerce and digital media. Its investments are spread across Asia, the Middle East, the UK and the US.

Its woes, however, are centred on its more than US$360 million investments in India. AOL owns a 98.5% stake in GETIT Infoservices Pte Ltd, which in turn owns now-defunct, online classifieds platform Ask-Me and e-commerce store AskMebazaar, through subsidiary Astro Entertainment Network Ltd, Mauritius (AENL).

AENL reportedly has pumped in some US$300 million over six years, with no returns, into GETIT. Its mainstay AskMe halted operations in August 2016 from lack of funding.

AOL also has to account for about US$60 million in To The New Media companies TTN Ventures and TTN Digital, a provider of digital marketing, technology and content solutions.

AOL told an Indian publication that it did not owe an “unlimited obligation” to fund any company indefinitely.

AOL’s other directors include Datuk Badri Masri, Chin Kwai Yoong, Bernard Anthony Cragg and Datuk Mohamed Khadar Merican. The company did not list its shareholders.

Marshall remains a director in another Ananda-related listed entity, Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd. In July 2015, Maxis Bhd announced that Marshall had resigned as director in the group.